James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

No Boy Knows - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley

There are many things that boys may know--
Why this and that are thus and so,--
Who made the world in the dark and lit
The great sun up to lighten it:
Boys know new things every day--
When they study, or when they play,--
When they idle, or sow and reap--
But no boy knows when he goes to sleep.

Boys who listen--or should, at least,--
May know that the round old earth rolls East;--
And know that the ice and the snow and the rain--
Ever repeating their parts again--
Are all just water the sunbeams first
Sip from the earth in their endless thirst,
And pour again till the low streams leap.--
But no boy knows when he goes to sleep.

A boy may know what a long glad while
It has been to him since the dawn's first smile,
When forth he fared in the realm divine
Of brook-laced woodland and spun-sunshine;--
He may know each call of his truant mates,
And the paths they went,--and the pasture-gates
Of the 'cross-lots home through the dusk so deep.--
But no boy knows when he goes to sleep.

O I have followed me, o'er and o'er,
From the flagrant drowse on the parlor-floor,
To the pleading voice of the mother when
I even doubted I heard it then--
To the sense of a kiss, and a moonlit room,
And dewy odors of locust-bloom--
A sweet white cot--and a cricket's cheep.--
But no boy knows when he goes to sleep.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010

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